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When and how to repot house plants

Even though a plant can spend several months, even years, in the same pot, eventually its roots will become cramped.

The best time to repot

The most ideal time to repot houseplants is:

  • At the beginning of the normal growing season. For most plants this means in the early spring, just as the new shoots start to appear, until the end of October before the dormancy period.
  • If the roots start poking out through the bottom of the pot, the plant starts to list under its own weight, or your plant seems to be thirsty all the time.
  • If the roots have compacted into a tight ball.
  • For young plants, repot each year in spring.

Signs indicating a need for repotting:

  • slowed growth
  • yellow or brown leaves
  • dry soil moving away from the rootball.

If, however, the soil is nice and loose around the roots then you will be able to wait a few more months before repotting.

Avoid repotting between October and January when the plant is in its dormant stage.

How to pot

Before you start, assemble everything you need:

  • Surface covered with plastic or an old tablecloth
  • Potting mix suitable for the plant with mycorrhizae
  • Clean pots 2 to 5 cm larger with drainage holes at the bottom
  • Pruning shears

Note: Any diseased plants should be properly treated first - potting a diseased plant could cause enough stress to kill it altogether.

  1. Water the plants several hours ahead of time.
  2. Hold the plant, or at least some of its stems, with one hand and, with the other hand, give the pot a good tap and gently tug it off.
  3. Loosen up the root ball with a fork or stick. If the roots are all tangled around the root ball, cut away about 2 to 4 cm from the bottom.
  4. Put enough soil in the bottom of the pot so that the root ball comes to about 3 cm below the top edge of the pot. Don't fill the pot to the top. Leave some room between the top edge of the pot and the substrate (soil) so that you can water your plant without the water overflowing.
  5. Center the plant in the pot.
  6. Add soil around the root ball.
  7. Tap the soil lightly to get rid of air pockets but not enough to compact it.
  8. Water generously to let any air pockets escape. You don't want air pockets; they make the roots dry out.

See which potting soil to use for your plant